Sunday, 20 October 2013

Knight time

Since 1759 the Greville family have passed the time of day being the Earls of Warwick. They also seem to have had a bit of a thing for armour, especially George Greville, the 4th earl in the 19th century, who bought a large part of the collection. Apparently it made great fancy dress costumes for parties in the 1950s. Perhaps the family has kept back a few suits of armour to liven up a Friday night, where you can still find the remnants of canapes in the visor hinges or martini stains on breastplates, but I expect that the armour on display in Warwick Castle, which they sold in 1978, represents the best of the collection.

There are two suits of horse armour on display, both from the late 16th century. The one below was designed for jousting and is much heavier than the armour above which was designed for battle. In battle a horse would need to be manoeuvrable where as in jousting it was required mainly to run in a straight line but directly at a chap with a lance. I also noticed that the field armour had a fairly substantial plate for the horses flanks where as there isn't nearly so much on the armour for jousting (you'll have to take my word for that one - the picture showing it is too poor to put up here)

This suit of armour was made by Italian armour maker Pompeo Della Chiesa in the 16th century (the name on his  Wikipedia page is a little different from that on the label. Also the English is a little clumsy, probably because it's a translation. Try the original Italian if you want)

Recent restoration of this armour has found evidence that it may have been gold plated when it was made. Even without the gold, it's a pretty fancy suit covered with engravings and pictures.

This is an example of Maximilian armour . According to the sign this was made in the workshops of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in the 16th century and that the fluting in the armour imitates the fluting in clothing of the day. Wikipedia suggests that the fluting may have added strength and helped deflect blows.

Back in Blighty, here's a suit of armour from the 17th century made in Greenwich in London. It was thought for some time that it belonged to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose who made a habit of doing the kind of business where a suit of armour was a plus. He eventually came to grief, which is always the risk when conducting politics at the head of an army and was hanged and quartered in 1650 (no mention of the drawn bit). His head remained on a spike outside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh from 1650 to 1661 when he seems to have fallen back into favour (if a little late) and a funeral was held for him. Recent research has suggest that the armour might actually have belonged to Charles I instead. I don't know how they tell these things but it is certain that he didn't have much luck with his head either.

These pins on the breast plate are designed to rest a lance on. Similar fittings can be seen on several coats of armour in the collection (if you look back, there are fittings for a lance in the same place on both previous suits featured here). This painting of Charles I in a very similar suit of armour to this one (could it be this one?) has similar fittings in the same place. Not that I'd visualised Charles I doing much jousting but I could be wrong.

As mentioned before, most of the armour was bought by the Greville family as part of a collection. This piece was also bought by the family and the only piece here to have seen service by an owner of the castle. It was Robert Greville's, who was a roundhead general in the English Civil war and owned Warwick Castle before the family became Earls of Warwick. The information says that there is a small dent from a musket ball in the armour as proof of it's quality. And although it says that Robert died at the Seige of Lichfield in 1643, it fails to let on that he reputedly has the dubious honour of being the first man killed by a sniper.